Susan Obryan's Reviews > The Belief in Angels

The Belief in Angels by J. Dylan Yates
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it was amazing

A debut novel by J. Dylan Yates reads like a memoir, but in a deep, dark way, it’s more personal. “The Belief in Angels,” published by She Writes Press, is among the 2014 USA Best Book honorees.

The novel alternates the story of Jules and her grandfather Samuel. Jules is the lead character throughout the novel, and even her grandfather’s words are written at her request (something we don’t learn until late in the family saga).

A relationship is something Julies craves, especially in her younger years. Her mom Wendy is a hippy wannabe, and her dad Howard is an angry, gambling drunk. Jules has two brothers – David insulates himself with TV, and Moses is a quiet little boy who just wants to fit in.

Jules is an exceptionally sharp kid who has been forced to grow up fast and well beyond her years. When her dad leaves them, mom Wendy loses all inhibitions and life turns into a never-ending, drug- and alcohol-infused party. It’s up to Jules to keep the family functioning, despite her young age.

Wendy keeps reaching out to her dad, Samuel, for money. Wendy doesn’t work – she claims to be too smart for just any job, and she periodically attends college for psychology degree. Jules’ dad makes infrequent reappearances, not to see his children, but to scheme for money, food, even logs in a blizzard.

When Jules’ little brother Moses drowns, the young girl takes all the guilt upon herself. She loses fragments of time – hours, days, even weeks. No one else seems to notice the void left by the sweet Moses except Jules.

No boundaries, no structured relationship, no outward signs of appreciation. These are the elements than bring Jules to her knees. She simply wants to be acknowledged, grounded as part of a family. She can’t feel a part of anything when all she feels is nothing.

Her grandfather’s additions to the story are memories of his childhood in the Ukraine – war, family and death. Taking on another person’s identity – and discarding his Jewish faith – to survive. And he does survive, becoming a wealthy man, but one without much ability to show emotion.

As Jules finally prepares for college, alone and with no guidance, she finally learns some of her family’s history. At last she has a sense of relationship, one of being a part of something positive, despite its brutality.

Jules’ story is now told. More will be learned about grandfather Samuel’s past in Yates’s upcoming novel, “Szaja’s Story.”

ARC provided by Netgalley
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 12, 2015 – Shelved
January 12, 2015 – Finished Reading

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